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‘Lightyear’ (review)

There has been some confusion as to exactly where Lightyear fits into the Toy Story universe, which has clearly also been at the forefront of the studio’s mind, as the film opens with a few slates explaining that this is the movie Andy saw in 1995 that made him fall in love with Buzz Lightyear.

As such, Chris Evans replacing Tim Allen makes perfect sense.

Evans is the character in the movie within the movie and Allen is the voice of the toy based on the movie within the movie, much like how talking toy versions of movie characters in the real world rarely feature the actual voice of the actor who portrayed them on screen.

In terms of Evans’ performance, he does a good job of capturing Allen’s essence in his voice work, all the while adding more depth to Buzz Lightyear as a character.

New characters are of course also introduced, and the robotic cat Sox steals not only every scene he is in, but also the movie as a whole, easily placing the synthetic feline companion among the best of Pixar’s substantial roster of compelling side characters.

Unfortunately, the other side characters do not manage to match the standards for witty and sweet writing set with the character of Sox, as they are not allowed sufficient emotional complexity to truly jump off the screen and be as endearing and memorable as they ought to be.

Being unable to thoroughly invest in the characters to the degree that has become expected for Pixar characters further highlights the tonal issues and lack of nuance in the writing, which is again exacerbated by the film’s pacing issues and underwhelming narrative structure.

This is not to say that Lightyear is a bad film, as that would be doing it a disservice, not least because it of course still brings Pixar’s high standards for animation to the table with top notch visuals, but not even the exquisitely animated action sequences manage to be engaging due the aforementioned issues with character development and lack of depth.

As such, rather than being another well-rounded entry into Pixar’s impressive catalogue, Lightyear is instead little more than a pretty-looking animated feature that has good moments that stand out in isolation rather than elevating the narrative as a whole.

Naturally, those who saw the trailer and were intrigued because they got the impression that Lightyear would add to the legacy of Toy Story in a new and unusual way, will very likely find the film to be a thoroughly enjoyable movie-going experience.

On the flip side, for those who were skeptical of the relevance of the film, it will ultimately fall short of not only the rest of the Toy Story catalogue but also the Pixar catalogue as a whole.

There certainly is potential in exploring the origins of the in-universe properties that inspired the toys that would come alive whenever the humans were not looking, but such features have very big boots to fill both narratively and emotionally if they want to invoke the emotional response the Toy Story films have done in big and small kids alike since 1995.

In conclusion, Lightyear makes for perfectly serviceable viewing when compared to animated family entertainment in general, but in terms of Pixar content it simply falls short of filling the potential to narratively go to infinity and beyond.

Verdict: 6 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Galyn Susman
Story by Angus MacLane, Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley
Screenplay by Jason Headley, Angus MacLane
Directed by Angus MacLane
Starring Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin,
Taika Waititi,
Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis,
Efren Ramirez, Isiah Whitlock Jr.

 

 

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